Atherton council asked to OK library in park


By Renee Batti

Almanac News Editor

A citizens committee created to examine options for rebuilding Atherton's public library wants the City Council to approve building a new facility in Holbrook-Palmer Park -- pending the town's meeting environmental review requirements -- when the council meets on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

But the town's Parks and Recreation Commission has sided with a group of residents who want the town to determine how the majority of residents feel about a library in the park. The commission voted at its Oct. 5 meeting to recommend to the council that no decision be made on the matter until a town-wide survey of residents is conducted.

The issue pits residents and county library staff who think the park is the ideal place for a modern library -- one that has more space to house its collections and to accommodate group activities -- against residents protective of the park, who say a library would draw too much traffic and interfere with recreational activities.

The plan put forward by the Atherton Library Steering Committee is for an 11,000-square-foot facility to be built on the site of the park's Main House, which would be razed. Funding, estimated at more than $8 million, would come from a town fund that must be spent on the library. The fund currently has about $5.6 million, and is expected to grow to $8.3 million by 2015, according to the town's finance director, Louise Ho.

Opponents of a library in the park say the town should renovate and expand the existing library in the Town Center, at far less cost. The 4,790-square-foot building that now houses the library is in need of a seismic retrofit and other upgrades.

The staff is recommending that the council next week approve the park "as the preferred site" for the new library to replace the Main House, pending meeting CEQA (environmental review) requirements. The town attorney has advised that, because of the "public controversy related to the project's environmental effects," an environmental impact review (EIR) be done, according to the staff report.

Steering committee members aren't convinced of the need for an EIR, and have asked City Attorney Bill Conners for an official opinion with legal citation, and are seeking independent legal counsel on the matter, the report said.

The council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road, in the Town Center.

Visit and click on "Agenda & Minutes" under the City Council heading to find the agenda and staff report.

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Like this comment
Posted by AV
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 18, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Comments and questions from earlier postings:


It would appear from the Town's agenda posting that the library in the Park issue has hit a few speed bumps. First, the Council is considering resuming rentals at the Park facilities through 2012 indicating they need the money and that the project will not start soon. The Library Site Selection Committee has recommended in a just published report that the Town Council proceed with the Park Library site. No surprise here since the committee is packed with appointees who are not independent but picked for their pro-Park library stance. However they have been seriously delayed because the Town Attorney has ruled a full is EIR is required under CEQA because their is considerable "public controversy". The Committee did not like this and has asked for outside legal opinion. Basically the project is off the table while EIR is done.

On another front a large group of Atherton residents (over 200) has petitioned the Town to commission a study of creating a master plan for the new Town Center area which would include a library site in the complex. The petition to add discussion was denied by Mayor Dobbie and discussion will not take place at this Wednesdays meeting. However, this group will submit a new petition to require the Council call a Special Meeting on this subject.

It would appear that there is significant opposition to the Library in the Park proposal and maybe the group within the Council will realize that they cannot railroad this through.

Questions the council should answer:

1.With all the recreation resources, school events, and Country Clubs nearby and few people attending events in the Park, why does the town need a community center? Who is going to staff it?

2. With libraries at Menlo College, Menlo School, M-A School, Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, Selby, and Menlo Library close by; why does Atherton need a bigger library?

3. Since this is a Regional Library how many additional cars a day will come into Atherton?

4. Why did members of the council oppose the M-A Preforming Arts Center and Cargill project for increasing traffic in Atherton and they do not oppose a Regional Library?

5. If a Library in the Park does not need additional Parking spaces, then do we currently have parking spaces we can convert to green space?

6. How many user visits a year does the county forecast for the new library?

7. What percent of user visits come from Atherton?

8. Could funds be given to Menlo College or Selby as a library partnership?

9. Will there be a problem during the Winter, when the park is closed after dark and the library is open?

Like this comment
Posted by The Committee
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 19, 2011 at 5:24 am

The citizens committee does have Council Member McKeithen as a member.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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